A little ship that passed in the night
- by Harry AnderS -
Dutch psychotherapist and writer
Feeling very thankful, I slumped down onto the only seat that still was vacant in this already over-crowded town bus.
I had been running; desperately trying to catch the vehicle before the driver closed its doors and drove off without me.
Now, still panting from the effort, I wiped my forehead while trying to slow down my wheezing breath.
Being sixty-plus years old, I felt very happy to be able to sit down here and give my already tired legs some rest!
Within a few minutes, the bus slowed down again, to pull over towards the next bus stop.
A few people left it in a hurry; and its inside filled up even more, with many new people.
Its doors closed; while the driver took off immediately, driving towards the next bus stop.
Again feeling happy that I had found such a nice seat, next to a window, I closed my eyes.
I had only a few more stops to go; until I could walk to my house and be home...
However, after a couple of seconds, something very softly, almost imperceptibly, touched my knee.
Or, could this faint feeling be my own imagination?
Now, the thing, or was it a person, even tapped my leg!
Who the heck, in this public bus, would have the audacity to touch another passenger in such an intimate way?
Feeling a bit surprised, I opened my eyes and looked at my knee...
Much to my surprise, a little boy stared back at me, showing me two dark brown eyes in an inquisitive small face.
A faint little smile crossed his lips, while he now gripped my knee a bit more firmly, with two hands.
With a pleading look on his face, he asked me in a low voice:
"Please, sir, can I look out your window?"
Who was I, to deny such a small boy the pleasure of looking outside, instead of getting crushed by the other passengers...
Smiling back at him, I pushed my rusty knees aside, to free a small path for him to reach the window.
Smiling thankfully, the boy shuffled towards the window; on the way again grabbing my knees.
Now, he started to jump up and down, while craning his small neck, trying to have an even better look outside.
How old could he be? I estimated him to be no more than five years old, maybe six.
Suddenly, he wrung his small body in between my knees, again using his hands to have a better hold...
Without thinking, I pulled him onto my lap, as I had done so many times before with my own young daughters.
Immediately, the boy settled down onto my lap, leaning into me with a deep sigh of content!
I put my arms around his surprisingly firm frame, and held him close.
Old memories showed up in my mind, of holding my own daughters on my lap in the same way...
They both were now a lot older and married. Unfortunately, I still didn't have any grandchildren.
For a moment, I fantasized about being the loved and adored granddad of this small boy on my lap...
Sitting together, we both stared out the window, looking at all those outside people-in-a-hurry.
I put my nose in his dark hair, and involuntarily kissed the top of his small head.
Immediately, the boy pushed himself up towards my face, as if telling me he liked this very much...
Then, he slowly looked up at me with sparkling eyes, while he whispered:
"Thank you, sir, for letting me sit here; and I like you very much!"
"Thank you too, my friend, for trusting me; and I like you very much too."
Suddenly, a young woman turned around and started to search the bus, with a worried face.
For a moment, she looked relieved; when she detected her lost little son, sitting on my lap, looking out a window...
Then, she started to scream:
"Larry, come here immediately! What did I tell you about danger strangers? Now, look at what you are doing! Do you really want to be molested by this man you don't know at all?
"And you, sir, you should know better than pull my innocent little boy onto your lap like this! Don't you feel ashamed, to take advantage of the curiosity of my son; trying to get your rocks off here, in this bus? Shame on you!
"Come on, Larry, NOW; and let's leave this bus, before I lose my temper."
With a deep sigh of utter sadness, little Larry left my lap and shuffled towards his impatiently waiting mother.
Still glaring at me with her dark eyes, she grabbed his arm and pulled her now sobbing son towards the exit.
For one split second, little Larry turned his small head and looked back at me with two sad brown eyes.
Then, he was gone; disappearing into the outside crowd, being lugged along by his still angry looking mother.
Before the driver would be able to close the doors and drive off, I jumped up and bolted outside, suddenly feeling afraid.
What if some passenger decided to 'teach me a lesson'; for 'getting my rocks off' on such an innocent small boy?
We were living in a very mistrusting world; and I didn't want to risk to be the next victim of some pedophile 'witch hunt'...
Fortunately, nobody followed me outside, and the bus drove off again.
Of course, I looked around; but I didn't see little Larry and his mother.
They had already disappeared into the crowd.
During the remainder of my life, I will never forget the sparkling brown eyes of a certain little boy who once sat on my lap in a bus and told me he 'liked me very much'.
Larry; a little ship that passed in the night...